Last Sunday, I wrote a response to Orange County Republican congressional candidate Scott Baugh’s nativist views on immigration. To briefly rehash it, while on a podcast, Baugh argued, in relation to immigration, “When you dilute the culture with other cultures so rapidly [the culture] necessarily starts to fray.”
I argued that was nonsense, that immigrants throughout history have been smeared with such attacks and that ultimately, immigrants enrich rather than dilute cultures.
Reader responses were fairly mixed, with some agreeing with me and others siding with Baugh. One loose end I want to address is my underlying premise on immigration itself.
Here it goes: Open borders should be the default immigration policy of the United States. I know, I know. “Open borders” has become the default label for basically anything perceived as happening on the southern border. It’s generally associated with chaos and even “an invasion.”
That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about open borders with intention.
Illegal immigration and the problems at the southern border are a consequence of the United States being too restrictive on legal immigration.
Opponents of illegal immigration usually insist they support legal immigration. Well, so do I. I just want to make more immigration legal.
Freedom of movement is just as much a natural right as the right to self-defense or the right to live free from coercion. This right is violated by all governments which impose unreasonably restrictive immigration policies.
I can imagine a few reasonable immigration restrictions. For example, if someone is a serious criminal or has some communicable disease. In those instances, it is evident that protecting people from a known criminal threat or a known disease threat can be justified. Beyond that, however, there is no particularly persuasive objection to respecting the right of migration.
One reader who reached out to me in response to my column argued that governments have an obligation to protect the economic interests of their citizens and that open immigration can undercut workers in a nation. It’s one thing to protect people from crime, it’s another to “protect” them from economic competition. There is no right to be free from economic competition.
The further you go towards trying to shield people from economic competition, the closer you get to socialism. Short of that, you’re just tinkering with various forms of protectionism which stunt economic dynamism.
Restricting immigration on the basis of protecting others from economic competition also violates both the rights of aspiring immigrants as well as employers who may wish to hire such workers.
Other objections readers raised include concerns over the strain put on the American welfare state. There’s a relatively easy fix to this, which is to restrict access to the welfare state. Problem solved. There’s a natural right to movement, but none to access a government-administered welfare program. In all my years of meeting people in or from Latin America, for example, who wanted to come to the US or who did so illegally, not one ever cited housing vouchers or whatever as a primary reason they want to come here.
Economists have estimated that respecting the right of people to immigrate would boost the global economy considerably, as people shift from jurisdictions so beset by poverty and corruption that their economic productivity is greatly stifled to jurisdictions with more robust economic opportunities where their energies and talents can be put to greater use.
Of course, as I wrote last week, most objections to immigration or even open borders are ultimately more cultural than anything else. There are fears and worries that the current culture will be eroded by an influx of people who speak different languages, have different traditions and who haven’t been totally steeped in our culture.
But immigrants do their best to assimilate — after all, they did want to come here and tend to be quite motivated to live a better life, that’s why they uprooted themselves in the first place — and their descendants become virtually indistinguishable with the passage of time .
It can be fairly easy to forget, given how diverse America is and has been, but the pulling together and hosting of a diversity of cultures is indeed a strength of America.
I also probably don’t need to remind anyone that over the course of history borders change, nations change. Conceptions of what it means to be an American have changed. We should stop being obsessed with “muh borders” and instead focus on advancing human freedom and the protection of rights.
Sal Rodriguez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org